Samsung Radiant 360 R1
The following are my opinions and if I have not been offered any compensation for the review of this product, either negative or positive.
I am going to start with the summary. Don't buy this. It is an incredible waste of a fair amount of money. On a good day the speaker may sound mediocre, but the software and hardware controls are very poorly done in an incredibly frustrating way. What starts out as a good concept, ends up with a poor implementation. Someone probably has or could/should build a product much better than this with most of the same attributes and do it well for a lot less than the asking price of a Samsung Radiant R1. If this sold for a $100 less than the $160-180 asking price (retail price is $250) it would still be over-priced. Lo and behold as I write this review an email from Samsung just came in offering to sell it directly for $99.99 as is Best Buy. Still not worth it. Run, don't walk away.
Let's start with the incredibly bad decision-making process that got me here today. One night I was visiting my local Costco and heard one of these things being demonstrated. It really sounded good in that noisy store. It was tiny and attractive and the features looked really cool. Costco wanted around $180 for it. I thought that was over-priced at the time, but I happened to have $55 in rewards from Best buy and another $70 gift card from Dell. I tried to find impartial reviews on the Net, but I couldn't find anything other than junk articles about the line of speakers. What the heck. I saw that Dell was selling them for $160 so I called the Best Buy 800 number and arranged for them to price match the Dell price and by the time I got off the phone the speaker was waiting at my local store. here is where the really bad decision making skills came into play. It was mostly impatience. I also ordered a second speaker from Dell which knowing Dell would tale about a week to get there having placed the order on a Saturday. I figured i would have time to go pick up the speaker, test it and if I didn't like it, cancel the Dell order. I was wrong. Almost immediately my order at Dell went into a state where the order could not be cancelled, even though they would not ship it for days. Anyway, I head over to Best Buy and pick up my order. That was a pleasant experience. It was waiting for me when I got there.
Let me just introduce myself as someone not unfamiliar with some modern technology. I've been in the computer/network business for almost 25 years. Anyway...I get home with the speaker and unpack it. The instructions are short and sweet. Everything goes smoothly. I install the Samsung Multi-Room application on my iPhone 6s Plus. The app finds the speaker and I attach to my wireless network in less than a minute. The application even finds a Samsung television in the other other room and offers to connect to it. So far it was amazingly smooth and I am quite impressed. Now I have to figure out how to use the darned thing. I struggle through one of the most poorly designed pieces of garbage software I have ever laid my hands on. The speaker has two modes of operation. WIFI and Bluetooth. Bluetooth operation is fairly simple. Anything you play on your phone will play through the speakers. You can use any app on the phone and it will play through the speaker. The problem with Bluetooth operation is two-fold. First your phone must be within approximately 30 feet of the speaker and second according to Samsung the quality of the sound is not as good as WIFI. They confusingly mention a lossless Bluetooth codec in the manual, but do not tell you how or where to get it. This speaker that I just spent $160 dollars on sounds terrible. The distortion is so bad is sounds as if the speaker is blown. I'm already ready to return the device as no bluetooth connection I have ever heard sounds this bad, but I continue on and explore the WIFI functions. This is where it gets interesting. WIFI operation is limited to using their application. This is where you can join speakers throughout the house. This is the way you can be anywhere in the house with your phone and control your speakers. The application is maddeningly confusing and difficult to use, but it offers a number of different WIFI playing options. First you can (or so it says) play any music physically located on the phone. Who keeps music on their phone anymore? I certainly don't have any as all of my music is accessible through either Apple Music or Google Music in the clouds, with the latter being my favorite. It is a fairly new phone and I hadn't gotten around to actually putting any stored music on the device. So I explore the other options within their application. I start with some Samsung offering of a good number of radio channels. That sounds worse than the bluetooth connection. It is distorted and sounds little better than a 1960's transistor radio playing music on AM. I move on to Pandora, which sounds just as bad. There must be something wrong with the speaker I think. The one I heard in Costco sounded quite good. I then notice a firmware update option in the software so I give it a shot. It fails about a half dozen times in a row and I give up on that. I have decided to return the speaker to Best Buy, but I give it one last shot. I transfer a bunch of music to my phone and try to play it. Only one song appears in their software for the longest time and it is some heavy metal bunch of noise difficult to get any grasp of the dynamic range of the sound. Finally after way too long a time Samsung Multiroom finds some more music. It too sounds like dirt but a little better than anything I have heard before. Still unacceptable, so I pack up the speaker and return it. Best Buy was fantastic. The guy that took it back, knew his stuff and suggested some options. He told me about a sale item HK speaker and sent me to go look for it. Then when I got to the wrong place in the store another extremely knowledgeable kid takes me to the right place and after showing me other options finally helps me find what I should have bought from the beginning. I buy a $40 bluetooth receiver for my surround-sound system, come home, hook it up and bask in the glory of decent sounding music. Best Buy, you have some great employees. I hope you pay them well.
This story should end here, but it doesn't because I still have this Dell shipment coming. Half of me wants to just call Dell and get an RMA number and take the 15% restocking fee and $10-20 it will cost like a man. I'll never buy anything like this from Dell again. The other half wants to see whether that first speaker was fluke. My wife needs a speaker in her home office so I wonder if the first speaker was just a bad one and I will be pleased with the second one. It arrives almost a week to the day later. Yesterday I unpacked it and started the setup. Amazingly it was a completely different experience and not a pleasant one at that. The one thing that worked well with the first speaker, was the setup of it. The second one was a near nightmare to set up. The phone wouldn't make the final connection to WIFI and it took a series of steps to make that connection. It finally worked, so I immediately tried to update the firmware. That worked this time, but I almost wish it hadn't. The speaker/phone WIFI connection was now lost and I had to start that all over again. Then another ten minutes of my life that I will never get back is spent trying to make this connection. It finally works. Now my wife is not into technology in any way. She has an iPhone 6s and enjoys it, but if this is going to be difficult to use, she isn't going to use it. I try and setup their Pandora app, but it mysteriously refuses to accept her password after numerous tries even though the actual Pandora app on her phone authenticates fine. I immediately determine that the only way this thing is going to be practical for her is as a Bluetooth speaker. Great. I could have bought a decent bluetooth speaker for 1/2 this price. Anyway, the next issue is that the bluetooth connection isn't automatically made. You have to manually go to setings and click the Samsung device every time you walk into the room. If you make the connection through the Samsung software, the speaker announces its connection and then immediately disconnects you, forcing you to manually establish the connection. It didn't work that way on the first speaker... what the heck is going on? Sound quality on this speaker is way better than on the first one. There must have been something wrong with that speaker. Not that the sound quality is worth $250, $179, $160 or even $99.99. What you pay for on this device is the ability to interconnect them and the software that makes them work. It isn't worth it. They should pay you to own one of these things. When you see a Samsung Radiant R1 in a store. Turn your back on it and run away as fast as you can.